Study Guide

Brian W. Aldiss

Brian W. Aldiss Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although most readers will recognize the British writer Brian Wilson Aldiss as the creator of popular science fiction, his list of work encompasses many more interests. His chief concern is with the exploration of human nature, either as he observes it around him or as he extrapolates what it would or should be in an imagined fictive place and time. In addition, he has produced volumes of travel literature, short stories, autobiography, and art and literary criticism. No matter the form or genre, Aldiss is intent on examining what makes people tick.

Aldiss was born in 1925 to Stanley and Elizabeth May Wilson Aldiss. He spent his early childhood in East Dereham, England, and was sent away to boarding school at the age of eight. His father later moved the family to Gorleston-on-Sea in Norfolk, where, Aldiss observes, he first made an acquaintance with American pulp magazines and science fiction. After leaving school in 1943, Aldiss joined the British Army and was stationed in the Far East, an experience which he believes had a lasting impact on his life and writing, especially in his use of lush tropical settings and in his exploration of the themes of isolation and exile.

Aldiss returned home from the war in 1947 and went to work as an assistant in an Oxford bookshop, submitting his first piece of fiction to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction and beginning work on a still-unpublished novel. His first piece of published writing ran serially for two years as “The Brightfount Diaries” in the magazine Bookseller under the pseudonym Peter Pica. In 1955, Faber and Faber published the collected pieces as a novel under Aldiss’s name. In 1957, Aldiss went to work as literary editor for the Oxford Mail. He also published short stories and worked on Non-Stop, which appeared in 1958. This novel, like many that followed, explores the issue of isolation; it tells the story of a failed interstellar mission whose vessel circles Earth.

One feature of Aldiss’s science fiction and fantasy that makes it unlike the work of many other writers in the genre is that he places considerable emphasis on the nature of human feeling and relationships. Aldiss explores these issues in such science-fiction and fantasy novels as The Dark Light Years, a book that examines the implications of...

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Brian W. Aldiss Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aldiss, Margaret. The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. Edited by Boden Clarke. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1992. A bibliography by his wife.

Collings, Michael R. Brian W. Aldiss. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1987. A reader’s guide. Includes an index and a bibliography.

Greenland, Colin. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British “New Wave” in Science Fiction. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983. Discusses Aldiss at length as both a mentor figure to the younger writers who led this 1960’s movement and an exemplar of its finest experimental traditions.

Griffin, Brian, and David Wingrove. Apertures: A Study of the Writings of Brian W. Aldiss. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. Argues that Aldiss represents the leap from older pulp/adventure science fiction to the post “new wave” genre. Compares his work to that of the early mainstream literary modernists.

Hellekson, Karen. The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2001. A critical study that covers works by Aldiss, Ward Moore, and Philip K. Dick. Focuses on The Malacia Tapestry.

Henighan, Tom. Brian W. Aldiss. New York: Twayne, 1999. A standard biography.

Mathews, Richard. Aldiss Unbound: The Science Fiction of Brian W. Aldiss. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1977. A brief monograph touching the high points of his work.

Platt, Charles. Dream Makers: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers at Work. Rev. ed. New York: Ungar, 1987. Aldiss discusses his own work in an interview.